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Airline Consolidator Tickets

Fly cheap with airline consolidator tickets

Airline Consolidator Tickets are available for travel on most major airlines, and they are usually used for international travel. Flying with airline consolidator tickets is the same as flying with standard tickets, but you can travel for much less.

How is this possible? Consolidators commit to purchasing a certain dollar volume of tickets from the airlines. In exchange for the guaranteed ticket sales, the consolidators are given low, contract rates by the airlines. The savings on these airline tickets are then passed on to you, the consumer. 

Many travelers believe they can get a cheaper airline ticket if they wait until the last minute when "the airlines sell off large blocks of unsold seats cheaply to consolidators, who then sell them for whatever they can get". This is not true at all.

Airlines and ticket agencies don't really work that way. It's occasionally possible to find a bargain ticket on very short notice, but you rarely get a cheaper ticket than you would if you had planned ahead. Of course, it may also be impossible to secure a reasonable price, or even get a ticket at all if you wait until the last minute. 

The airlines' historical figures for any given flight show that a certain percentage of the seats on the flight will be empty. By discounting those seats to consolidators, the airlines increase the chances of filling up that flight. 

When a plane leaves the gate with empty seats, the airline loses ticket revenue. The consolidators bear the expense of the marketing costs of the "cheap tickets". This is why the airlines can afford to sell the tickets to the consolidators at such deep discounts. 

Using an airline consolidator ticket, you can save anywhere from 10% - 70% or more off the airlines published fares. During airfare sales, it may be possible to purchase a cheaper ticket with a published fare, but that usually isn't the case, especially during the spring and summer tourist and vacation season. 

Consolidator tickets typically do not impose as many restrictions as the airlines do on advanced purchase fares. For example, you can fly into one city, then depart from a different one. Saturday night stays are usually not required, and your trip can last longer than 30 days.

There are seven differences between consolidator airline tickets and regular tickets:

  1. There is no price printed on the ticket. The airlines don't want you to know how cheaply they're willing to sell their tickets to the consolidators. 
  2. If your plans change and you need to change flights or have your ticket endorsed and transferred for use on another airline, you may not be able to do so.

    Most airlines won't accept consolidator tickets issued for travel on other airlines. But if the airline cancels your flight for any reason, they're bound by law to place you on another flight. 
  3. Occasionally, you won't get credit for frequent flier miles when flying with airline consolidator tickets. The policies vary from airline to airline. 
  4. There is typically no advance purchase requirement with consolidator tickets. Virtually all retail airline fares will require a 7, 14, or 21 day advance purchase. 
  5. You can't buy a consolidator ticket direct from an airline. You must buy it from a travel agency that offers consolidator airline tickets. 
  6. Although many consolidator airline tickets can be canceled after purchase (but before the travel date), the privilege may come with a stiff penalty. But that's still better than the airline's retail fares. Once you purchase those, you generally can't cancel at all! 
  7. Consolidator tickets come with an entirely different set of restrictions. There are typically no advance purchase requirements, the tickets are usually refundable (with a stiff penalty), and they have a different penalty amount for any changes.
Most savvy travelers consider the differences between a consolidator airfare ticket and a retail ticket a small trade-off in return for the huge savings they enjoy with the consolidator airfare ticket! 

Be sure to find out the rules before you buy your consolidator ticket. Consolidator tickets (unlike most other inexpensive airfare tickets) may be refundable with a penalty, but be sure to ask before you buy.

And when you fly using a consolidator ticket, you'll most likely be able to get special meals and other perks that you would normally receive with a higher priced ticket!

David Tinney is a respected travel expert who has been in the travel industry for over a dozen years. Visit him at http://travconnect.com.

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